47 years ago today, seven men in black robes opined, and the rest of the nation tolerated, the notion that a child in the womb can have the right to legal protection only if the mother of the child doesn’t first waive that child’s right to legal protection. (Confused? Read the full opinion here.)
And so, last month, six Alaskans were charged with murder after a child was killed in her mother’s womb in Wasilla. The mother had not waived the child’s right to life, and so “murder of an unborn child” was the appropriate charge under current Alaska state law.
Recognizing the injustice of the 1973 supreme court announcing the “right” of a mother to have her child killed, Governor Dunleavy has declared today “Right to Life Day” and President Trump has declared today “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.”
These declarations are good. They draw attention to the injustice of laws that protect innocent human life in some circumstances, and fail to protect that same innocent life in others. It is an injustice. It is a tragedy. It is a national disgrace.
It is also an Alaska disgrace. Roe v. Wade didn’t allow abortion in Alaska. We did that to ourselves before the Supreme Court had even heard of Roe v. Wade.
While we should stop to acknowledge Sanctity of Human Life Day, we shouldn’t kid ourselves on the value we currently place on the sanctity of human life as a state. Those of us who aren’t yet 50 have inherited a form of cheap sanctity.
Call it “sanctity lite”.
In Alaska, a majority of our state elected officials have described themselves as pro-life. You can usually find a paragraph or two on campaign websites and fliers, and in party platforms, explaining how highly we value the sanctity of human life. And yet, roughly half of the abortions that take place in Alaska each year are fully subsidized by the state.
Our state policymakers have decided that Alaskans are willing to pay for abortions at any point during pregnancy. In 1998, a single Alaska judge opined that killing a child even in the final moments of birth itself is a “constitutional right”. That opinion went unchallenged and continues in effect today, pitting our state constitution against federal law that bans these barbaric acts in all fifty states.
Under Alaska law, a child in the womb may be killed for any reason, or even no reason at all. In Alaska, no child in the womb is safe from being targeted by an industry all to happy to take that child’s life for the right amount of money. (*Note: Alaska stops keeping track after the same person has had more than five abortions.)
Every year, state legislators vote on a statement that they don’t approve of taxpayer money being spent on abortion. And yet, repeated passage of such statements by legislators hasn’t stopped a single tax dollar from being spent on abortion, or preserved the life of a single child. The practice of proposing these statements continues year after year for other reasons.
For example, there is value for people watching. Some of those watching will be encouraged to see that at least sanctity is being talked about in the capital.
There is also value to legislators in being able to take a public position on an issue important to their constituents. But taking a position is a very different thing from taking action.
Many legislators like the idea of sanctity. Many of us like it a whole lot. In fact, we like to tell others how much we like the idea of sanctity. Many of us allow ourselves to be put on lists of those who value sanctity. We accept votes and campaign checks from those who appreciate the fact that we allow our names to be put on those lists.
Sometimes we even allow our names to be put on legislation to ensure that members of the public know how very willing we are to continue to allow our names to be put on those lists. It’s all very friendly, and the abortion industry doesn’t mind a bit. It’s politics. The industry understands. Folks have to get re-elected. It won’t affect the number of children killed in the womb, or even the amount of money the state pays for it, but it does affect things here in the capital.
And for too many legislators it ends there.
The thinking goes:
“We’ve done our part—we provided encouragement to those who like the idea of sanctity as much as we do.” When they go home tonight they can be encouraged in the knowledge that there are others like them serving in public office.
Perhaps if we lived in a state where abortion did not take place we would even gladly take action to ensure that it stayed that way. We certainly wouldn’t take any steps to increase abortion. In the end, this is what some politicians mean by “pro-life”.
But don’t ask us to confront the abortion lobby directly, or their activists on our courts, or put forward bills they might rally against. That’s too much. They might come after us. That’s a more expensive form of sanctity. We prefer the cheap kind. It’s an Alaskan tradition.*
*For Alaskans for whom this is not enough, there is House Bill 178 and House Bill 179. These are the bills that the abortion industry genuinely feels threatened by.
Of course, encouragement has value too—but not to the ones whose lives are actually being taken, every day, right here, in our state.